The Empire Strikes Back 90 – The State of the Empire 1849-1854

 


Summoning the Senate

Senators, your presence is requested for a State of the Empire Address on the Ninth of May, 1854.

The following newspapers are considered significant by the archivists.
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And the Senate’s world map is being updated.
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Waiting for the address

The senators were gathered in their hall, waiting for the Empress to arrive and give her address.

Senator Michelangelo began the per-address discussion among the Patrikioi, “I don’t particularly like the idea of Germany being on good terms with Russia. At least Poland has expanded at their expense. The papers are overflowing with news of Imperial expansion. Truly these are the golden days of the Empire!”

Senator Alexios Damaskinos spoke to his own circle of Foiderátoi Senators, “We shouldn’t bother with German-Hungarian war, as, in my opinion, it was inspired by oppressed majority of German people in Austria, and not any kind of imperialism. I insist again on claiming Taiwan, as it may help us in future interventions considering last expansion of Ming dynasty. I suggest to consider invasion of Ceylon to support future interventions in India. We should also look closer to growing importance of Deccan in that region. Also, I again insist on breaking any relations with Poland, as this might lead us to war within our Sphere, and I must say that in my opinion, in case of Livonia-Poland war, we should give what we can to support Livonia, armies or subsidies (if we will be in another war at the same time).”

Senator Nikephoros Doukas also spoke to the Foiderátoi. “Germany’s relations with Russia are unsettling. We should be careful in dealing with them. Remember, the First Empire was destroyed by the Germans when they were uncivilized brutes—Alemanii, they called themselves at the time. They can do it again. Perhaps we can enlist the help of the Poles? If they were willing to fight Russia over Lithuanian territory, they can surely help us against any German treachery.
I fully agree with an invasion of Taiwan. We must deprive Russia of any colonies and truly take our place in the sun! Ming is growing quite strong, and is on good terms with the Koreans. They could be a useful ally against Russia in a future war.
I do not recommend an invasion of India. There are so many people there, and their cultures and traditions are so foreign from our own that integrating them into Roman society would have more costs than benefits. We should instead increase our sphere of influence in the region and build up friendly relations and trade agreements with native rulers, especially the Deccans. We can have the benefits of trade goods from India and an ally in the region, as well as an effective foothold in the subcontinent without the costs of maintenance and providing for millions of new Imperial subjects.”

“Also, the Empress would consider a diplomatic mission to China itself, I would recommend myself as ambassador. I am close friends with the Celestial Empire’s foreign minister, Lin Zexu, and am fluent in the local languages and traditions.

Senator Στήβεν Γκρέυ had been speaking with the XKM, but overhead part of the conversation and joined in. “Whilst I agree with my fellow senators with the Germany and Hungarian war, I am concerned with the Polish invasion of Russia. What is the likelihood of Poland managing to at least white peace with the Bear?

With the Indians perhaps they would better serve us as loyal puppets than us taking their land directly, at least this way we control their destiny.”

An unknown voice spoke clearly and loudly in the hall, “The Third Rome needs to punish the Second Rome!”

“Heresy,” muttered Doukas.

“Never heard of Third Rome. Is it some kind of capital of our Australian colonies?” asked Damaskinos of the senators near him.

“Russia was often called Third Rome,” claimed Senator Basileios Rellis.

Doukas took this as an opportunity to speculate, “This discussion about a hypothetical “Third” Empire—which ought to never exist, as doing so would mean that our current Empire be destroyed; it is treason to suggest a rebellion against the Empire—has got me thinking…if the Empire is Roman, why is the capital in Constantinople? We can’t have a Roman Empire without a capital in Rome.”

He paused for a moment, then frowned, “Also, how did that guy get into the Senate room? He’s not a senator! Somebody call in the Varangian Guard! The Empress is under attack!”

That done, he turned back to Rellis, “Senator Rellis, why do you refer to the Russian menace as a “Third Rome,” implying that the Slavic peoples can be as cultured and civilized as the Romans on the level that they are the successors of the Empire? By explicitly saying that Russia is the Third Rome, instead of our Empire, I get the feeling you wish to overthrow the Empress and install the Slavic Tsar as the Imperator. Such talk is treasonous, at best.

When no-one else responded after some time, and no Varangians showed, he continued, “But fellow senators, as we wait for Her Imperial Highness to give her address, what should we do about the trespassers who somehow manage to get into the Palace and speak vile heresies?”

Favero finally spoke, “Surely they should be detained and interrogated. They could be spies for Russia. The audacity of them to claim Russia to be some third Rome. There is only the Empire and no others.”

Doukas replied, “Yes, there can only be one Empire, but what Ruthenian spy would be idiotic to the point that he walks into the Senate, of all places, and foolishly proclaim that Ruthenia is the Third Rome, knowing that he would be immediately arrested? There must be something going on here, or the Ruthenians are just playing us. It could be a trap, and they distracted our attention while…”, he looked outside “…oh.”

Suddenly, an explosion ripped through the Senate’s chamber.

Michelangelo was blown clear across the room and slammed against the wall. He tried to rise to his feet, but lost his balance. Blood slowly oozed from a gash on his head. Managing only to get to his knees, Michelangelo spat out some blood between his teeth. He wiped his face with his senator’s robe as he regained his senses. “What in the name of the Empress was that? Do the Russians have artillery outside Constantinople?”

Doukas was sprawled on the floor. He was lying in a pool of blood from the senator next to him but was himself largely unharmed. “Seems to have been a bomb,” he groaned, “the Ruthenians can’t possibly have gotten artillery this close to Constantinople.” He looked over and saw that the Varangians assigned to guard the Senators were either dead or unconscious. The front door was blasted open, and the windows were broken. Doukas realized that the Empress was in grave danger. “The Empress is under attack! Save her!” He grabbed a sword from a dead Varangian just as a man in Ruthenian clothing appears in the doorway, pistol raised to fire at anyone. “You all get the Empress out of here! I’ll take care of the attackers!”

Doukas charged at the Ruthenian, who calmly fires three times while exclaiming “For Mother Russia!”

Michelangelo cowered behind a tipped-over bench as shots fired through the room. The knowledge that not only his life but the Empress’ as well were at stake spurred him into action. He quickly crawled on his hands and knees, sneaking out a side door while the terrorist was distracted. He slowly rose to his feet once outside the room and nearly toppled over from dizziness. He placed a hand against the wall to maintain his balance and started working his way through the palace. “The Empress…must find the Empress…”

Doukas ran the terrorist through with his sword just as he felt three bullets strike him in the chest and left arm. The pain was unbearable, but he knew he must do his duty for the people and Senate of Rome.

The Ruthenian spat blood in Doukas’s face and snarled, “It is too late, Greek scum! Soon Mother Russia will be the mother of all.”

Doukas nearly shouted, “Who sent you?! What are your orders? Are there others?”

The Ruthenian laughed evilly “Soon the Germanic barbarians will sack Rome again.” He then died.

The pain overwhelmed Doukas, and he collapsed to the floor. Before he lost consciousness, he heard more explosions – this time from the direction of downtown. Blachernae may have been among the targets, but he didn’t know. “God have mercy on our souls!” he whispered.

Michelangelo kept wandering through the palace, looking for anyone at all who could warn the Empress. He was in no condition to make the trip to Blachernae, but someone had to. All the hallways looked the same. In fact, maybe he’d already been down this one, judging by the blood drops on the floor. Had he gotten turned around? Michelangelo tried to clear his head, but a dizzy spell overcame him. He’d been losing too much blood.

Explosions sounded off in the distance. Was Constantinople under attack? Michelangelo had no idea. He just wanted to get out of here and get the Empress to safety. Maybe she was already safe and he was wasting his time. Regardless, he had a duty to perform, or at least the duty to get some beneath his station to fulfill the role while he tried not to succumb to his wounds.

The sound of heavy footsteps drew Michelangelo’s attention, so he rounded a corner and pushed himself up against the wall to hide. Two burly men speaking in Russian ran down the other hallway. Michelangelo remained silent as they left, but then the footsteps stopped and started drawing closer. That’s when he noticed the blood drops all over the floor. They knew he was there.
Michelangelo scurried down the empty hallway, only to run into a dead end as he rounded the corner. There were two ceremonial poleaxes mounted on the wall, so he lifted one from its bracing and steadied himself. He only had one shot. As the Russians rounded the corner, Michelangelo let out an angry yell and charged them. Before they could react, he impaled the first one on the end of his poleaxe, piercing him right through the gut. The dying man spewed out blood from his mouth and pushed himself off the weapon, only for more blood to pour from his wound. He slipped to the floor as life escaped him. The second man drew a pistol and Michelangelo dove to the floor. The bullet shattered a nearby window, which was much better than shattering Michelangelo’s head. Before the man could fire another shot, Michelangelo picked back up the poleaxe and swung it at his assailant. The blade sliced through the man’s forearm, forcing him to drop the gun. Before the Russian could draw his own blade, Michelangelo stabbed the poleaxe’s end into his neck. Blood sprayed everywhere as the man slumped to the floor. The two Russians were dead.

Michelangelo dropped the poleaxe in horror and vomited all over the palace floor. He had never killed a man before in his life. He suddenly had a much deeper appreciation for the soldiers in the Imperial Army. When was this horrid event going to end? Looking out the broken window and seeing smoke spiraling into the air didn’t give him the answer he wanted. Slumping to the floor, he took in several deep breaths. The Empress would have to wait, at least until he didn’t feel like he was dying inside. Surely even the Empress would grant him that reprieve.

Doukas saw images flashing by his eyes. He saw his childhood in Athens, his time at the Imperial University, his wedding, his son before heading off to war in the Holy Land… He thought to himself, “Seriously? A flashback of my life at this time? I don’t need to see this again, I already know this.”

His perspective changed, and he was looking down on all of Eurasia. The Empire in all of its majesty stretched from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, but to the north lay Germania and Ruthenia, the patchwork of barbarians which brought down the First Empire. Even now, centuries after the deposition of the last ruler of the First Empire, Rome was still threatened. The Germans had done what Rome couldn’t and united into one main polity. They were on friendly terms with the Empire now, but Doukas remembered what the Ruthenian had told him. To the east laid the once-mighty and isolationist Celestial Empire, or Serica as some called it. If an alliance could be secured, the Ruthenians could face a two-front war should conflict break out. Their almost unlimited manpower could mean the difference between victory and defeat.

There was the sound of disparate voices behind him, but he couldn’t turn around. Then he realized the voices were in German and Ruthenian.

He opened his eyes. Three foreign men stood in the middle of the Senate room. One of them spoke German, which Doukas was competent at.

“Too bad they’re all dead or unconscious, I would have loved to hear them scream.”
A Ruthenian replied, “Why don’t you kill them now?”
“It’s not fun.” answered the German
A second Ruthenian joined in, “Men, focus! Our forces have incapacitated the government of the Roman scum–”
The first Ruthenian interrupted him, “I hate to remind you, but the Empress holds all of the power.”
The second snapped back angrily, “Shut up! As we speak, a small force of Germans is advancing into Blachernae, and another force of Russians has seized Hagia Sophia. Soon Rome will be brought to its knees.”
The German finally spoke again, “And then they’ll blame the Tsar and the Kaiser instead of us! It’s perfect.”
“Exactly,” concluded the first Ruthenian.

Doukas couldn’t believe what he had heard. A secret conspiracy to drag the Empire to war with the Germans and Ruthenians? He silently reached over to the body of the man he had stabbed earlier and took the still-loaded gun.

The second Ruthenian was speaking, “Is everybody accounted for?”
The German answered, “We’re missing one of the senators, an Italian. I heard something in the corridors, and two of our men are missing.”
The first Ruthenian spoke again, “It must be the Artist. If he gets out of the building our plan will be foiled. Go get him!”

The German and the second Ruthenian left the room. Doukas inferred that the “Artist” was Senator Favero, apparently the only other senator to maintain consciousness. Perhaps they could still save the Empress… He accidentally knocked over some rubble.

“Who was that?!” exclaimed the one remaining Ruthenian.

With quick thinking, Doukas brought up the gun, wrapped it in his toga, and fired at the enemy. The shot was muffled, so the others couldn’t possibly have heard it. The Ruthenian keeled over dead before he could shout. Doukas got to his feet painfully. He knew he had to get out of here and reach Blachernae. So he limped out through the giant hole in the wall of the room.

The sound of another explosion made Michelangelo snap his head up. He was laying down on the floor, although he didn’t remember lying down. Hadn’t he just been sitting down to catch his breath? How much time had passed? He glanced out the window, trying to judge the time by where the sun was. He couldn’t figure out how much time had passed since he didn’t remember when the attack had begun in the first place. Damn his aging mind! Maybe he would retire after this incident and take up painting. That sounded a lot less stressful.

Michelangelo tried to get up, but slipped in a puddle of blood from the two corpses lying nearby. He nearly threw up again at the sight of them, their cold lifeless eyes staring up at the ceiling. He needed to get away from here before someone came to investigate. He went to round the corner when he heard voices arguing. They were drawing nearer, too close for him to escape the dead end in time. He went to pick up the poleaxe again, but slipped on the blood again. He got back up to his feet, only for someone to shout at him in German behind him. Why was there a German in the palace?

“Turn around slowly, you filthy Italian, and show me your hands.”

Michelangelo slowly obeyed the orders and faced the German. He had another man with him. Both were armed, their pistols aimed at him. He warily took a step back, brushing up against the window sill of the broken window. “What do you want with me?” Michelangelo asked. “You won’t get away with this attack. The Empress will have your eyes and tongues cut out for this.”

“She’ll be dealt with soon enough. Now follow me.”

Michelangelo went to follow, only to slip in the blood for a third time and fall backward. He put his hands behind him and stopped his fall by grabbing the window sill. He winced as one finger grasped some broken glass from the window.

“Watch your step, old man. Make too many sudden movements and you might not make it back to the Senate alive.” The two men laughed together. Michelangelo had a feeling he might not make it back to the Senate even if he obeyed. He needed to escape these thugs. Before he could consider the consequences of his actions, he pushed off the window sill with his hands and rolled backwards out the window. The German shot at him, but the shot missed Michelangelo’s head by a few inches. The next thing he knew, Michelangelo was falling out the window. Now that he thought about it, he had probably been on the second or third floor. He closed his eyes and hoped that the impact would either kill him immediately or spare him further pain. “Forgive me, Empress.”

Doukas heard a splash next to him. Did somebody just fall into the fountain he had helped fund last year? Then he noticed it was Senator Favero. “You! You’re alive! You won’t believe what I overheard in the Senate room. Did you find anyone else?”

There were shouts from above. Doukas looked up and saw the German and his Ruthenian accomplice looking down on them from a broken window. ”It’s him! The Duke!” the German shouted.

Doukas hoped his arm was still good enough to shoot at them. He aimed and pulled the trigger twice. “God help me.”

It was sure cold in Heaven. And wet. A bit too wet for Michelangelo’s tastes. In fact, he had trouble breathing. Wait, if he was dead, why did he need to breath?

Michelangelo’s eyes snapped open and he pushed his head up out of the fountain water, gasping for air. He’d survived, and relatively unscathed too. He vaguely heard a voice as he dragged himself out of the fountain. Two shots followed and a figure fell down into the fountain next to Michelangelo, splashing water all over him. By the way that the water was quickly turning red, he probably wasn’t getting out of that fountain.

As Michelangelo regained his sense, he realized that Senator Doukas was standing nearby. He remembered the senator asking a question as he rose from the fountain. “I haven’t seen a soul other than the Russians I ran into and that German who tried to shoot me. Oh good God, I killed them, the Russians. I had no choice.”

Michelangelo shivered involuntarily, still uncomfortable with the idea of taking another man’s life. Then he realized that there may be more of them nearby and that the Empress could be in danger. “We need to find the Empress. Her life is in danger.”

“Don’t worry, fellow Senator,” answered Senator Doukas. “You did what you had to do for the Empress, for the Senate and people of Rome. I heard that these Ruthenians…they’re not working for the government in Moscow or Berlin; they’re trying to trick us into a war against Ruthenia and Germania, one we possibly can’t win at this point without losing much. We must alert the Empress to this plot. If she hears of the attack on the Senate she will definitely push for war with the Germans and Ruthenians. That is, if she survives today, of course.”

“A ruse to lure us into war? Ingenious of them, since we would have bitten that bait with ease with all the hatred of Russia in the Empire. We must make for Blachernae at all haste before it is too late!” Before Michelangelo could say any more, a bullet whizzed past his head and struck the ground. Apparently the second man had not be dealt with like the one in the fountain. Thinking on his feet, he grabbed Senator Doukas and dragged him behind a large bush. “We need to get out of here immediately. Who knows how many of them are roaming the palace.”

“I must have missed,” replied Doukas, and then coughed up blood. “Do you know a safe way to the palace? I overheard that downtown is filled with them. We might need to call in the army to deal with them. Also, I don’t really remember how far away is the palace.” He heard voices getting nearer and nearer…

Kyriakos Angelos came to amidst the rubble in one of the corridors of the Chrysotriklinos and somewhat unsteadily picked himself up. “I say,” he said to himself in an offended tone, after noticing the fallen bodies of senators and Varangians alike, “this really is not chariot racing.”

Picking up a sword and a firearm from the fallen guards’ bodies, he began to make his way out of the palace.

Doukas shot the Ruthenian passing by the bush. The man gave a shout before falling over. “Well, that was easier than I expected, don’t you think?”

He took the Ruthenian’s ammunition and sword while also putting on the Ruthenian outfit. “Why don’t you disguise yourself as well, Favero? That way they probably won’t kill us immediately. And are you sure you couldn’t find any other senators? I may have seen movement in one of the windows.”

“It may have been more Russians,” replied Michelangelo. “I didn’t get much of a chance to see if any other senators were alive when I was forced to flee.” Michelangelo went back to the fountain and pulled out the body. He quickly put on the man’s clothes and casually walked away. The outfit was soaked, but he’d already been in the fountain before anyway. “How are we ever going to get to Blachernae in time? Who knows how many of these men there are and where they are? They could be roaming the streets for all we know.”

“They are roaming the streets. They have even occupied Hagia Sophia itself and have taken the Ecumenical Patriarch himself hostage! Which means we’re going to have to find some horses. I think the stables are in another part of the building?”

“They may have some horses stabled near the Hippodrome for chariot racing. That’s our best chance of finding some. I’d love to know how these men got into Constantinople without anyone noticing. Those responsible should be drawn and quartered for the mess they’ve caused.”

“There must have been traitors within the Senate and Varangian Guard helping them! Alright, then, let’s go to the Hippodrome.”

The two Senators started walking.

The Hippodrome was empty when they arrived, with no guards or intruders. It apparently had not been a focus of the attack, probably because there were no races planned. There weren’t even any stable boys attending to the horses when they entered the stables.

“Did everyone just run away when they heard explosions? I certainly hope they weren’t all in on the attacks,” wondered Michelangelo. He wandered past all the horses, looking for a horse that fit his taste. If he was going to ride through the city to save the Empress, he may as well do it in style. As he approached the end of the row, the stable door opened and a man stuck his head in. His features were clearly Slavic and the fact he yelled at Michelangelo in Russian confirmed that the man was an enemy. Michelangelo dove into an empty stable as the man fired his pistol. The Russian burst into the stables to pursue, but Michelangelo grabbed a shovel and swung it at the man’s face. It collided with a dull thud, softened by the manure that had been stuck to it. When the Russian didn’t topple over from the first hit, Michelangelo swatted him again in the head and brought him low. “Maybe in Russia they should focus on breeding strong minds instead of strong heads.”

Doukas took the Ruthenian’s gun and tossed it to Favero. “Take this, and I hope you’re a good shot with it.” He got on the nearest horse. “Alright, let’s go save the Empress in style!”

Michelangelo caught the gun and briefly examined it before stuffing it in his robes. He’d never wielded a firearm before, but he’d need it now. “I was always more partial towards the sword when practicing dueling. The gun was always too dangerous for sport.”

As he looked up, Michelangelo spotted a white stallion of the purest breed. That was definitely the type of horse he wanted. He hopped up on the horse and followed Doukas out of the stables and into the city. A few Russians, or maybe even Germans, took shots at them as they rushed through the gates, but the horses easily outdistanced the enemy. They were free to make their way to the Empress, that is if no one was waiting for them on the way.

Doukas thought to himself as the two senators left the stables. “Maybe we should have taken swords, just like the cavalry. But oh well, not everyone can be a Mongol, right?”

They charged straight through downtown, and peasants and merchants screamed and jumped out of the way as the two senators charged through the central market. “Make way! The Empress is in danger!”

But then Doukas remembered that the Ecumenical Patriarch is also a hostage. “Wait, we need to free the patriarch first! If they have him hostage, they have the entirety of Christianity hostage as well!”

Michelangelo slowed down his horse for a moment, considering whether or not to backtrack. The Empress or the Ecumenical Patriarch? “If we go back for him, we may be too late to save the Empress. But we can’t let him be taken either. Damn those Russians to the fires of hell! Perhaps if we split up we may be able to save them both.”

“I’ll go after the Empress, you get the Patriarch.”

Michelangelo gave a nod before turning around to race towards the Hagia Sophia. If the two of them were fast enough, they could save the two most powerful people in the Empire. He wished he could have gone to save the Empress, but Doukas seemed much more capable with a firearm than him. It would be better this way. Michelangelo only hoped that whoever was holding the Patriarch hostage could be dealt with. He wasn’t exactly the most capable of fighters.

As Michelangelo rounded a street corner, an explosion blew out the windows of a shop across the street. His horse reared up and nearly threw him off. Fortunately he was well-trained with a horse and kept his grip on the reins and saddle. A man in Russian garb ran out of an alley with a grin on his face and some sort of make-shift explosive in his hand. He tossed it into the street where people were screaming in terror and it exploded in a shower of rubble. Two bodies lay on the ground, killed by the explosion. Remembering that he had a pistol, Michelangelo pulled it from his robes and fired a shot. The Russian man collapsed to the ground, a bleeding hole in his chest. The people in the street all turned in his direction. The image of a senator in blood-stained Ruthenian clothes holding a pistol while riding a white stallion must have been an impressive sight. Michelangelo decided to use it to his advantage.

“People of Constantinople, I beseech you. We are beset by foreign spies who wish to sow discord within this most splendid of cities. They put not only your lives, but those of the Empress and Patriarch in danger. As for the latter, he has been taken hostage by these foul men. Alone I cannot save him, but together we may. Join with me to take back the jewel of the Empire and save the Patriarch from those who would do us harm.”

The street was unusually silent for a moment, but soon cheers erupted from the crowd. The people of Constantinople would follow him. They picked up whatever makeshift weapons they could find or make. One woman even offered him a sword, although he had no idea where she had come upon it. The blade felt much more comfortable in his hands than the pistol. He let a grin spread across his face as he rode off to the Hagia Sophia with a band of armed citizens.

Doukas heard an explosion behind him, but he didn’t look back, as he was getting close to Blachernae and had to watch for any Ruthenians. Just as he reached the front gates, which were blasted wide open as if by a bomb, he heard a cheer behind him. Were the peasants also on the Ruthenians’ side?

There was a shout from his right. Looking in that direction, he saw two horsemen charging straight at him, one apparently a Mongol armed with a bow and the other a Hungarian armed with a sword. “Seriously? Are we repeating the Hunnic invasions of the First Empire and the Mongol invasions during the Second Empire?”

He aimed and fired twice, and both riders toppled from their mounts.

Doukas arrived at the main door leading inside. “Here goes nothing.”

He slipped inside.

Michelangelo reached the Hagia Sophia later than he had hoped, since he had to slow down for the citizens to keep up. He knew time was of the essence, but he couldn’t save the Patriarch alone. When they reached the grand building, Michelangelo came to a halt. Guards stood outside the open doors. They didn’t notice him at first, but the sound of the approaching mob drew their attention. Not delaying any longer, Michelangelo charged at them. He closed the gap rapidly on his horse as the men drew their pistols. They both fired and Michelangelo felt a burning in his shoulder. He ignored it and drew his sword. He cut across as the first guard as he passed and swept the sword overheard as he slashed the second on the other side. The two men fell back in pain as the mob approached. Not slowing down a bit, Michelangelo lowered himself in the saddle and galloped straight into the Hagia Sophia. Several men stood within the building and scattered as he dashed through them. His horse trampled at least one of them and he got in a few blows with his sword as he passed by. Before the men could retaliate in kind, the mob burst into the building and swarmed over them. He kept on through the holy site, looking for the Patriarch.

It didn’t take long to find the Patriarch. He was being held hostage near the alter by several burly men. He guessed they were all Slavic until one of them started speaking some form of Scottish or Gaelic. Exactly who was involved in this conspiracy? As the men took note of his approach, he jumped off the horse. Speed would not aid him here.

“Release the Patriarch immediately!”

“Or what?” demanded one of the Scots.

The mob made its way into the large room and started to spread out around Michelangelo. The men holding the Patriarch hostage were noticeably nervous. Michelangelo smirked. That smirk was quickly wiped off his face as the Scot grabbed the Patriarch’s head and held a blade to his throat. It was time for some negotiations.

Before Michelangelo could utter a word, a shot rang through the air. The Scot collapsed to the ground, releasing the knife. Everyone looked around stunned. Before the enemy could react and harm the Patriarch, Michelangelo let out a battle cry and charged with his sword held high. The mob followed. The enemy stood no chance. They tried to flee, but were run down by the citizens of Constantinople. Michelangelo let them release their anger while he approached the Patriarch. “Are you hurt, your holiness?”

“I am fine, Senator Favero,” replied the Patriarch. “God has seen it fit to spare me this day and punish these heretics. But what of the Empress? Is she safe?”

“Senator Doukas has gone after her. I am certain he will keep her from harm. For now, let us get you to safety before more intruders arrive.”

Michelangelo went to guide the Patriarch out of the building when he lost his step and fell to his knees. He tried to rise but a dizzy spell overtook him.

“Senator, you are hurt!”

Michelangelo finally noticed the wound in his shoulder. The bullet had gone straight through and his outfit was soaked with blood. So that was what that pain was from before. He tried to regain his feet again and collapsed to the ground. The Patriarch and several citizens gathered around him to help. He slowly slipped from consciousness, content that he had at least done his duty and saved the Patriarch in time.

Doukas advanced through the halls of the Imperial Palace. Servants and Varangians were strewn all over the floor, and the blood had stained the priceless Anatolian carpets. On the walls were portraits of former Emperors and Empresses, and Doukas felt unworthy to be looking directly at them.
A large man rounded the corner in front of him. Before he could react, Doukas drew a dagger and stabbed him, muffling his screams for help. Moving along, he arrived at what appeared to be the Empress’s private quarters. They were empty, but there was a trail of blood leading out from the doors to another part of the palace.

Doukas felt sick to be looking at imperial blood being spilled so callously. But he must look and follow the trail. He slowly stepped through the deserted palace, the blood trail leading him towards one of the old pagan temples which had been refurbished as part of the palace. As he got closer and closer to the temple, he heard an ominous chanting in some language that was not quite Ruthenian. He rounded a corner, and the temple came into full view. He was on a balcony, overseeing the horrifying rites going on below.

There were at least a dozen men gathered below in front of a Ruthenian in pagan robes. As he watched, the Ruthenian priest carried a wooden sculpture of Christ on the cross and dropped it into a bonfire. Behind him, strapped to an altar, were the Empress and her husband, the Prince-Consort, themselves. “Praise be to the Black God, Chernobog, who smiles upon us as we offer Him this offering to feast upon.”

“Seriously?” Doukas thought. “First a conspiracy to drag Ruthenia and the Empire to war, and now a conspiracy of pagan cannibal Ruthenians? I must be going mad.”

The Prince-Consort’s voice came through the chanting, “God will have you burn in hell for eternity, heathen!”

“Oh, but it is you who is mistaken,” said the priest with a laugh. “Your god has abandoned you to our clutches. Chernobog is victorious! Soon, war will break out, and He will feast upon all of the souls taken in the fighting. But first, both of you will be His first meal.”

“Not if I can help it,” exclaimed Doukas.

Everyone looks up and saw him.

The priest spoke again, “Ah, the Duke who is not actually a duke. We meet at last. I am Iosef Ignatieff, servant of Chernobog, and you really expect me to tell you my evil plan at this moment?”

“No. I already know your plan.” He emptied his guns into the procession below, each bullet sending a cultist to Hell for eternity. Finally, he was out of bullets, and the High Priest was still alive. Doukas walked downstairs, took his dagger, and ran the pagan through. “The name’s Nikephoros Doukas. Not just ‘the Duke,’ but the bringer of Victory as well. Senatus Populesque Romanus.”

With that Ignatieff departed to hell with the rest of the cultists. As Doukas set to work freeing the unconscious Empress and her conscious but badly wounded husband from the altar, he wondered if Favero had saved the Patriarch.

The Prince-Consort pointed at Doukas’s chest. “You’re bleeding.”

Doukas looked down. He had forgotten about his wounds from earlier. He collapsed on the altar and blacked out.

Back near the senate hall, a freshly awakened Konstantinos Galatias beheaded a Ruthenian with one swipe of his family sword. He muttered several curses in French.

In the city of Riga, Alexios Damaskinos went to his apartment. He finally had time to rest after many conversations with Livonian Order’s representatives and diplomats. He was admiring views of Riga. “It is indeed beautiful city. I’m curious if my fellow senators are having as tough day as I am.”

Doukas, for the first time in his life, felt completely at peace. He knew he had done his duty and saved the Empire from destruction. He hoped Favero had also been successful. He couldn’t feel the rest of his body, but his mind was free to roam around. He saw a world where he was born as a knight in one of the Oriental kingdoms, named Sakamoto. In that world, there was no Roman Empire. The true rulers of the world were the Anglo-Saxon barbarians, horrifyingly.

He saw images of what may be. Mankind making larger and larger leaps in technology, exploring the unknown parts of the world, discovering secrets that only God should have known. Wars growing even more deadly and widespread. Mankind taking its deadly violence to the skies, raining fire and brimstone upon millions of innocents…the Empire could not hope to survive in this deadly age with such a mindset. They had to adapt, to prepare…

In the East, two empires emerged to shake the world. The Celestial Empire and the Land of the Rising Sun, tipping the balance of power, would either challenge the Empire or join forces with it, ushering in either an age of war or peace.

He wondered when he was going to wake.

During the time of the terrorist strike on the Senate, Septiadis was sitting the farthest away from the explosion. While he got hit by flying debris, he was largely unscathed. He ran for cover as soon as he could. In his many years of travel, he had learned many things from many people. This included many forms swordsmanship. He grabbed a sword from one of the dead Varangians and started hiding in the debris. He killed a few terrorists before overhearing a conversation between two of them, mentioning a conspiracy that would lead to war. He recalled hearing of a multicultural neo-paganist terrorist group a few months back, but he had dismissed it as a silly rumor.

Eventually, he made his way outside, seeing some other senators. He was relieved that the other senators were alive. He saw Senators Doukas and Favero running into the city. He realized that practically no one was helping the unconscious senators beneath the debris and decided to help them instead. By the time he finished helping the remaining senators up, everything was already over. He wondered where the other awake senators were.

Doukas awoke in one of the undamaged rooms of the palace which had been conveyed into a makeshift hospital. He found that his wounds had been bandaged and hardly hurt. The improved scientific technology really had paid off.

He asked one of the doctors, “What of the Empress? Is she okay?”

The doctor told him that Her Majesty was being treated in another part of the palace, surrounded by a detachment of heavily armed surviving Varangians. Doukas sighed. At least she was safe.

He got up and left the palace, as he was no longer seriously injured. He found his horse grazing on the lawn outside and rode to the Hagia Sophia. He found the Patriarch safe and surrounded by a crowd of civilians.

“Where is Senator Favero?” he asked the Patriarch

“He’s safe and alive, but it’ll take some time for him to recover,” was the answer.

With that, Doukas headed off for the Senate building. He was sure that some senators had woken up. He had to tell them what had happened.

Michelangelo awoke on a cot in a candlelit room. The sound of chanting could be heard nearby, a prayer to God most likely. He went to get up, but groaned as pain spiked in his shoulder. A nun shuffled into the room and gently pushed him back down on the cot. “You are still injured, Senator. Your wound may be infected and you’re already running a fever. You must rest.”

The nun wiped his forehead with a damp cloth, making Michelangelo realize just how warm he was. Sweat poured from his skin and he felt as though he was on fire. She pulled out a vial of what he assumed was medicine and carefully poured it between his lips. It was bitter, but what medicine wasn’t. He reluctantly gulped it down. Then he remembered the circumstances that had brought him to this points. “The Empress, has she been harmed? And what of the Patriarch? Is the attack over?”

The nun smiled down at him. “I have been told that they will both be fine. Now rest.”

Michelangelo stretched out on the cot to get comfortable, letting his eyes slowly close. He felt unusually drowsy and soon sleep overcame him. He didn’t notice the shine of metal sticking out from between the nun’s robe as she left the room, a mischievous look on her face.

Doukas heard a scream behind him. It was the Patriarch. Something was happening at the Hagia Sophia. He turned around and rode back into the church, only to find dozens of civilians incapacitated and a nun holding a knife to the Patriarch’s throat. Blood trickled down from a gash in his shoulder, which the nun lapped up happily.

Doukas sighed. “Here we go again…”

He raised his gun and pulled the trigger.

CLICK. Nothing.

He noticed movement behind him. He dodged the knife blow from the cultist sneaking up behind him, seeing something glint on the blade as it passed him. Poison.

Doukas tackled the cultist, knocking the blade out of the cultist’s hand. With his foot he kicked a nearby sword into his hand and stabbed the cultist.

“Stop! Or your Patriarch will be fed to Chernobog!” screamed the nun.

“If only he still had some ammunition,” thought Doukas.

In another part of the church, there was chanting in that same not quite Ruthenian language. A group of cultists filed into the main atrium, dragging the body of senator Favero towards an altar they had constructed around the Patriarch’s chair and a large mound of paintings and idols to Christ.

“Who will you save, Duke?” The nun smiled. “The Artist or the Patriarch?”

With that they tied both the Patriarch and Favero to the altar and set the whole thing on fire. The cultists drew knives and advanced as one menacingly on Doukas. He was surrounded. There was no escape.

Michelangelo slowly returned to consciousness. He felt incredibly warm. His fever must have been getting worse. As he opened his eyes, he realized it wasn’t the fever. Flames licked around him and were starting to singe his robes. Behind him he could hear the screams of another man. He tried to turn his head, but it flopped to the side uselessly. Had he been drugged? He could make out a group of people across the room wearing strange clothing. Cultists, perhaps? He had no idea what they were doing here or what was going on. The fire was slowly burning closer to him. He needed to get away from the flames.

Michelangelo tried to move, but found himself bound down. He could just barely shift his body with ropes binding him to the altar behind him. He wiggled back and forth to try to loosen the ropes, but to no avail. Something fell out of his pocket and onto the floor. Flopping his head forward, he could make out the shape of a gun by his feet. It must have been the pistol Doukas had given him earlier. He tried to nudge it closer with his foot, but accidentally kicked it into the flames in his drugged stupor. Well that didn’t go as planned.

A loud bang sounded near Michelangelo and one cultist attacking Doukas dropped over dead. The flames must have heated up the gunpowder and fired the gun. Well that was the best help he could provide. The flames licked at his skin now and the altar was now burning behind him. He hissed in pain as his skin was scorched by the hot flames. Just when he thought it unbearable, the rope snapped after being burned through by the fire and he fell forward onto the floor. Michelangelo flopped out of the flames and rolled away from the altar. He was no longer in danger of burning, but he was still too drugged to get to his feet and help. All he could do was watch the Patriarch stumble away from the altar and run out a side door in terror. Well at least he was safe if somewhat of a coward.

Doukas heard a bang from the altar, and one of the cultists in front of him screamed and dropped on the floor, dead. As all of the cultists turned to see Favero and the Patriarch break free of their bindings, with the Patriarch running out of the room and Favero collapsing on the floor in a drugged stupor, Doukas lashed out with his sword, cutting down at least five of the cultists before he was restrained by the rest.

Surprisingly, they didn’t kill them immediately. A man in the robes of the High Priest of Chernobog entered the room, and the cultists bowed to him.

“Ah, the Artist who is not an artist and the Duke who is not a duke,”said Iosef Ignatieff, “It is nice to see you again.”

“Iosef Ignatieff!” exclaimed Doukas.“I killed you myself back at Blachernae!”

Ignatieff smiled.“Chernobog works in mysterious ways. I am his chosen one, his champion!”

He strolled over to the bonfire, where priceless relics dating back from the days of the Great Schism and the Iconoclast Controversy were burning and melting.

“You hate this, don’t you?”Ignatieff smiled.“Once word gets out about this, everyone will hate Mother Russia and Germania. Then, only then, will Chernobog be pleased by the sacrifices made to Him in the ensuing war!”

“Yada, yada, yada,” Doukas said, “Yeah, I heard this before. Why don’t we skip the boasting and trash talking and get to the part where you explain your evil plan? Oh wait, you already did so!”

“I am getting sick of your talk, boy,” Ignatieff said. To his cultists, he ordered,“Kill them!”

The pagans resumed advancing on Doukas. Looking around, he saw Favero stirring ever so slightly, but nobody paid attention to him, thinking he was dead already of his burns.

Ignatieff raised his arms skyward let out a large, diabolical laugh that could only have been given to him by Satan or whatever god he served.“WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Nobody can stop us now! Praise the Black God! The Cult of the Black Hand is victorious!”

At that moment, the doors of the church burst open, and with a fanfare of trumpets, gunfire—from military rifles used by the Imperial Army, not the pistols the Ruthenians carried—rang out throughout the room. Cultists screamed as they were cut down by the relentless volley and sent to eternal torment.

“Get down!”shouted an Imperial soldier.

A second salvo rang out, and the bullets struck the nun and what cultists were stupid enough to remain standing and not run away.

There was the sound of hoof beats, and Doukas turned to see the Athenian Lancers, the renowned light cavalry brigade, charge into the room, blaring their bugles and drawing their sabers, cutting down cultists with every strike.

Ignatieff’s smile turned to shock. He glared at Doukas.“This isn’t over yet, House Doukas. The Cult is patient, and it will return to exact vengeance! Chernobog isn’t finished with any of you just yet!”

With that he disappeared into the shadows as quickly as he had arrived, the surviving cultists following him as quickly as they could.

It was over. It was finally over, Doukas thought. He felt relieved that the nightmare was finally over. Hopefully there would be no more attacks.

One of the cavalry officers dismounted and approached him. Doukas’s eyes widened as he recognized his own son, Alexios, whom he had not seen in years. He was in a colonel’s uniform and wore a couple medals—was that the Nike Medal, Order of the Empire, and the Veronica Cross? What had he done in the Holy Land in the name of the Empire?

“Is that you?” Doukas asked.

“Yes, father, it is me, Alexios,” replied the lancer officer, “After the bombing of the Senate this morning, General Savopoulos received a rushed order from Blachernae for partial mobilization of all troops around the capital before communications were cut off. With the Varangian Guard out of the picture, the Athenian Lancers were the only brigade in the area fully prepared for battle at the time—we were here for training—so they sent us into the city to root out any suspects. You should have seen the battle downtown!”

Doukas hugged his son and cried. He couldn’t take any more of this.“Thank you so much, son. You saved us all.”

“No, father, you did. You saved the Empress herself, for crying out loud! Her Majesty is safe from the clutches of the cannibals and heathens thanks to you. God knows what would have happened if you had decided to accept that job offer at the University of Constantinople instead of the appointment to the Senate.”

Some soldiers brought in water and put out the bonfire, saving most of the relics, while others helped Favero to his feet and put him on a horse.

“We’re heading to the Senate now, you might want to come with us, as it’s safer traveling with us, Father. The Cult has you two—and your families, by extension—as targets. They’re going to seek vengeance at all costs, for whatever reason. Only God knows why the Doukoi and Favero families are so important.”


May 10, 1854
A pale but imperious Veronica prepares to address the Senate in an appropriate hall in Blachernae, as the Imperial complex is damaged and in need of refurbishment.

Senators,

Yesterday was a dramatic and terrible day. Thankfully the Senate proved that they are the men I had thought them to be, and the loss of life was less than one would have thought. Senators Doukas’ and Favero’s efforts in particular stood out. Thanks to them, the terrorists were held at bay until the Scholai Palatinae could arrive.

Senators Doukas and Favero are henceforth elevated to the aristocratic rank, and will be given lands according to their new station. When they are recovered, they will also be placed as governors within Greece and Italy.

To replenish the now-thinned ranks of senators, We ask that the Kyriarchía faction among the Senators train new senatorial candidates in proper etiquette for the Senate.[1]

Finally, if there are no objections, the Scholai Palatinae will add a guard regiment that will be stationed in the Blachernae palace complex.

[1] (( I’m editing in the ‘Harassment’ political party reform. We’ll assume the other parties quickly organize and attempt to draw new Senators into their sphere. ))


This message to Blachernae was delivered by Colonel Alexios Doukas, son of Doux Nikephoros Doukas and Commander of the Athenian Lancers:

Your Highness, I accept your gracious offer. I will serve you loyally as both doux and governor of Thema Graecia.

To my fellow senators:
So I guess all of that is over now. Her Majesty is safe, His Holiness is safe, the Empire is safe…for now. We cannot forget the terrible things that happened on May 9, which for the sake of the records I shall refer to as 5/9. We must move forward together. If there’s anything that the perpetrators of 5/9 have taught us, it is that we are easily driven to war. Had some of us not discovered the machinations of the Cult of the Black Hand working behind the Ruthenian terrorists, we would have played right into their hands and sent the legions into Germania and Ruthenia, sacrificing millions of innocents to their Black God, Chernobog they called him. Let us remind them that we are Romans, and we serve the Empire with honor and rationality. Let us remind them that we are the civilized ones. Let us remind them that before we decide on any course of action, we weigh the benefits and costs first, whether within the Senate or the court at Blachernae. For we are the Roman Empire, and unlike the Old Empire we will not fall and submit to Germanic and Slavic barbarians! They will submit to us, as we are the center of Western civilization! Let it be known that we hold our heads high! We shall not give in to the bloody demands of terrorists or cultists! Long live the Empress! May the Empire last ten thousand years!

PS: I strongly urge my fellow senators in the Foederatoi Party to recruit new senators sympathetic to our cause; we are going to need them moving forward. Check their backgrounds and make sure none have criminal backgrounds. I’d recommend setting up civil service exams in each town in order to make the best use of Roman talent.

~Doux Nikephoros Doukas, Governor of Greece, from his villa in Athens, May 10, in the year of our Lord 1854

Mikael Moustakas rushes back to Constantinople

“By Christ, what has happened here? Those perfidious Russians!”

Your Majesty, you are most gracious. I humbly accept the gifts you grant me for my undying service to you. I will carry out all the responsibilities of my new rank and position with great honour and wisdom. Italy will prosper under my guidance.

– Duke Michelangelo “the Artist” Favero

Alexios responds to Mikael on behalf of Nikephoros:

Honored Senator, this may sound like the words of a madman, but it is the truth, as I was there to see the end of it. A cult of pagan cannibals, which my father told me was that of the Black Hand, attacked the capital city yesterday, targeting Blachernae, the Senate Palace, and Hagia Sophia, killing numerous senators and taking the Empress and the Ecumenical Patriarch hostage, with the aim of sacrificing both to their heathen god and in doing so provoking the Empire to war with the Germans and Ruthenians so that the casualties would please their god. Due to the intervention of my father and Senator Favero, both the Empress and the Patriarch are safe, and the plot has been foiled. As we speak, the Scholai Palatinae is launching an investigation into how such a cult could have penetrated the Empire all the way to Blachernae. I hope you understand what we have been through.

~Alexios Doukas, Commander in the Athenian Lancers

Senator Γκρέυ, walks in after weeks of touring the best brothels the Empire has to offer.

Γκρέυ: It is flithy in here and the city is in ruins, I go away for a few weeks R&R and this happens. The Kyriarchía should be banned as a party for this failure!

Kyriakos Angelos, who was present during the attack, openly laughs at Stephen’s comments. “I knew liberalism was a mental disease, but clearly the natives ofIrlandiado not even have the saving grace of a proper Hellenic upbringing. Such is the curse of the immigrants and the lower classes, I see.”

Alexios sighs. He whispers something in the ear of the Athenian Lancer soldier next to him, who promptly leaves the room.
You are correct in that the Hibernians do not have the proper Hellenic upbringing. However, they can become proper Romans given enough education (or re-education, for that matter) and time. The other Senator is not inherently corrupted–he was corrupted by theimmoral businesessof the capital. Wickedness must be stamped out.
Immigrants give us fresh minds, new ideas, for continued inovation, so that the Empire can adapt in these changing times. And the lower classes…remember to keep them happy, or they will rebel and upset the natural order of things.
But enough of this talk of petty matters. I was sent here to discuss more serious issues, such as 5/9. I’ll make this as blunt and straightforward as possible:
There are traitors within the Senate.
Of course, you’re all thinking, “Preposterous. Traitors? In my Senate?!” But that is the truth. How else could the cult have penetrated into the Senate and planted the bomb? Remember that the whole incident began when a Ruthenian agent walked into the middle of the Senate and declared that Russia was the Third Rome (clearly not the case). How could they have gotten past the dozens of heavily armed Varangians and Scholai Palatinae forces without raising the alarm? And how could the bomb have been so deadly to senators and Varangians alike? There had to have been somebody working with them.
I bet they’re right here right now, listening to us as we speak.

~Alexios Doukas

The idea that the Ruthenian agent from earlier was brought into the Senate thanks to a traitor frightened Senator Septiadis.

“If what you say is true, surely we should have the entire building, nay, the entire city searched! If there is such a traitor, or a group of traitors, running amok among our ranks, we should stop them posthaste!”, Septiadis said.

For an attack of such magnitude to occur without warning in the heart of the Empire would require some inside assistance. Whether or not that inside assistance is a senator or two is yet to be determined. I think it would be best if all senators remain in Constantinople for a time until any possible traitors can be found. Perhaps we should start with those who were involved in the “Third Rome” incident.

– Duke Michelangelo “the Artist” Favero

That would be most wise. However, my father is in Athens right now, so that may complicate things a little bit. As for the rest of us, I have ordered the Athenian Lancers to guard the Senate room and watch for any suspicious activities.

~Alexios

Well I think it is safe to assume that your father is not involved in conspiracy after saving the Empress’ life. It may be prudent to recall him to Constantinople though, as well as any senators not in the city. Their absence during the attack is suspicious enough.

– Duke Michelangelo “the Artist” Favero

My father is in Athens to recover; he is in no shape to travel back to the capital. Do not worry, the Doukas family villa is heavily guarded by loyal soldiers.
I do agree that the senators who were not present at the time of the attack seem suspicious. After all, they suffered the least.

~Alexios


Senators,

Let Us tell you of the wars of the past few years.

Heeding the Senate’s desire for expansion in the Far East, and noting the difficulties the Empire’s factories were having in procuring dye, We set some agents to work on Sulawesi, where they documented the local population’s desire to be a part of the Empire instead of part of Hedjaz. When the agents’ efforts came to world attention, this was viewed negatively.
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While this was under way, Poland requested Our help in reclaiming lands of theirs that were occupied by Bavaria. Not only seeking to keep an ally, but also seeing a chance to weaken Bavaria, We agreed.
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XXVII. Legio moved into the Alps to block Bavarian incursion, while XXIII. Legio moved through German lands to strike the Bavarian east. When Thuringia agreed to help Bavaria, X. Legio moved to occupy their small territory.
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XXVII. Legio was never able to force a battle, but they frightened several Bavarian forces away from occupying alpine territories. XXIII. Legio captured Brno. X. Legio completed occupied Thuringia and scattered their miniscule army. This was enough for Bavaria to agree to the Polish claims.
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The attack on Hedjaz was slightly delayed as the upgrades of the border fortifications had been using up the supply of artillery, leaving the legions under-supplied. But provisions were redistributed, and the legions were ready in August of 1849.

In the east, XI. Legio moved island to island.
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In the west, I. Legio and XIX. Legio both attacked the Hedjaz homeland.
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By November, Hedjaz was ready for peace.
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Agents were then sent to the Iraqi holdings in the Philippines. Iraq, suspicious of us after the war with Hedjaz, found our agents nearly immediately. But this did not deter Us in the least.
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It was October 1850 before the legions were recovered and in position.

But in September of that year, the UTA had declared war on the Empire of Mexico, as they now claimed that the central part of North America from ocean to ocean was theirs by right. We could not abandon our ally, even though this also brought us into wars with Biru, Colombia, and New England.
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XV. Legio marched along the Colombian coast, pacifying the lands it marched through. Though it did not capture much before beginning to repel Colombian armies from both Imperial territory and captured territory. Once defeating the entirety of the Colombian armies, they again moved along the coast, and then marched inland towards the Colombian capital of Bogota. Eventually, in November of 1851 Colombia agreed to a simple peace with no concessions.
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IX. Legio initially assisted against New England by defeating their armies. Again, occupying their territories would be left to the UTA.
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XII. Legio had set sail towards Biru’s capital. In their eagerness to fight, they convinced Admiral Theodoros Mavrocordatos to sail at top speed, leaving the western fleet behind. At the Antofagasta coast, they were intercepted by the Biruvian navy. Fortunately Biru’s ships were, if not yet obsolete, badly out of date and our transport fleet was able to withdraw in good order with the loss of only one ship. Even better, that ship was carrying supplies and not soldiers. Unfortunately, the nearest port was the Falklands, so XII. Legio would not soon be attacking Biru.
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In that time, IX. Legio had arrived in Texas to begin repelling Mexican armies. After it did so, it began occupying Mexican territory. They spent the rest of the war doing so. Once nearly all of central Mexico was occupied, they returned to Lisboa.
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By October 1851, a new ship had been built, and XII. Legio again struck at Biru. This time the West Fleet was keeping the Biruvian fleet in their port. XII. Legio proceeded to occupy much of Biru, additionally driving their fleet from their port into the guns of the West Fleet. But the stubborn Biruvians did not agree to peace until July of 1852.
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Meanwhile, XV. Legio had been shipped from Colombia to the southernmost regions of Mexico to occupy their lands. When they had occupied the whole South of Mexico, they returned home to Georgetown.
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In August of 1842, New England finally agreed to annexation. The UTA had a secure northeastern territory.
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XII. Legio had been shipped north to Oregon, where they defeated one of the last Mexican armies and then moved to free American towns from Mexican occupation. Once this was complete, they headed home to Tangier.
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The war with Mexico did not dissuade us from war with Iraq. This war was declared on October 4th 1450. XI. Legio did its usual work of occupying the island of Southeast Asia.
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And I. Legio occupied the Iraqi heartland.
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And those small occupations were all it took for Iraq to surrender on the 11th of November, 1450. Γιώργος Γκρέυ, son of Senator Στήβεν Γκρέυ, was made governor of this new colony.
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Before the Mexican war had yet ended, Poland asked for Our help in freeing Lietuva from Russian domination. We could not refuse them.
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As in former wars, XXIV. Legio marched to occupy Moscow, while II. Legio cut off Russian access to the sea.
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XXIII. Legio moved against Hungary when they decided to help Russia. I. Legio moved against Persia when they did the same. Both X. Legio and XVII. Legio moved to defeat Hungarian armies in western Germany.

XXIV. Legio was then intercepted at Kursk on their march to Moscow. They won the ensuing battle, but need to turn back in order to recuperate. When they were attacked again as they withdrew, they were routed and forced back to Moldavia.
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Fortunately, enough damage was done on enough fronts that Russia surrendered in June of 1853.
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However the Mexican-American war still went on, as We waited for the Americans to declare enough terms to give Mexico a harsh peace.

After an intermission, We shall tell you of domestic affairs during this time.


Praise be the mighty legions of Rome! No country can hope to stop us.

The Russians got what they deserved for their attack in our capital. If only we could have burnt Moscow to the ground!

Perhaps we should consider working with Bavaria to contain German ambitions. Germany could prove to be a deadly foe in the future.

-Senator Mikael Moustakas

Well, the cult failed in their plan to incite war with the Ruthenians, but I guess was against the Slavic barbarians was inevitable anyways, given the geopolitical situation of Poland. Luckily this war wasn’t that bloody.
In other matters, the Doukoi fully support the war in the Americas. May the legions carry the Empire to victory!

I shall be heading off to the front if the war will not end in the next month, so my father will be returning, perhaps as soon as the next session. He’s recovered enough and would like to help root out the traitors within our ranks…

~Alexios

Speaking of war in the Americas, should we continue to eternally support the United Tribes in their desire to subdue the American continent?

-Senator Mikael Moustakas

Yes, until they fix the borders that have been giving me and the cartographers heart attacks.

-Alexios

I do so enjoy seeing the Russians suffer. Seeing them lose that pocket on the Baltic just brightens my day. To the glory of the Empire!

– Duke Michelangelo “the Artist” Favero

Successful repelling of Russian threat to Europe is once again great news. Although I am concerned about our interventions in Americas. It seems like the burden of UTA’s expansionism rests on our shoulders. Alliance should be beneficial for both sides and I can’t see any benefit for us in this agreement, thus I suggest ending it, or at least being more passive in America’s wars. Let them bleed in their petty wars if they want, but we shouldn’t support creation of so called Great Power on the American continent, as after defeating Mexicans, UTA can turn against us in the future. I suggest maintaining the balance of power in Americas by more passive military actions in the region.

– Senator Alexios Damaskinos

If the United Tribes manage to achieve the status of a “Great Power,” they will most certainly abandon their alliance with us. Perhaps we can play them off against Kanata to prevent this from happening?

~Alexios

Who would have ever thought the Russian could win a battle at Kursk, seems like the Emperess is allowing her advisors to siphon funds to line their own pockets.

Given our legions dominance on all other fronts I demand an investigation into this regions Katepanō and Stratēgos, I believe Senator Damaskinos’ kin are invovled and his attempt to place issue on our continual alliance with the UTA is a disgusting attempt to dirty the name of a loyal and valuable ally.

SenatorΣτήβεν Γκρέυ

Take that back!

Senator, give me one reason why we should continually back the tribes till the end of time? And how are they a valuable and loyal ally when they have never helped us?

-Mikael Moustakas

Senator Στήβεν Γκρέυ, that’s just empty words, give us evidence of their loyalty.

My words are substantiated. That’s not the first war in which UTA is using our military strenght to achieve it’s goals. We don’t even have common enemy. Our withdrawal from Americas meant that we are no longer interested in the affairs of these continents, or at most we should be interested in achieving Balance of Power in Americas.

What do you, senator, have to back your words? Name one war in which Empire’s interests were threatened and in which UTA came to help us. Prove me wrong and I’ll consider changing my mind.

– Senator Alexios Damaskinos


Senators,

Let Us open this part of the address by speaking of technology and learning.

The previous research into the State and Government paid yet more dividends, as we developed yet more means of controlling different groups. Most importantly, We learned to inspire colonists to move to more difficult lands.
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As you no doubt noticed on the updated map, with this new found colonial enthusiasm, We were able to establish colonies in the Egyptian desert, on South Georgia Island, in North Angola, in South Angola, on Christmas Island, on Cocos Island, and in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Near the end of 1849, Our improved railroad designs were ready for full-scale production. Between both Our investment and capitalist investment, these improved railroads are being built in every possible location in the Empire, including much hilly terrain that was formerly impassible to railroads.
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After the war against Hedjaz, We commanded the navy to learn to better estimate what supplies they would need. They took advantage of the statistical mathematics being developed at the University of Constantinople, applying them to more than just the supply situation.
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Not only did this enable the navy to reach further, but they better understood how to strike at the enemy, both at a tactical and a strategic level. Furthermore, the navy began adding plans for night attacks to their repertoire.
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At this point, We turned Our attention to the economy. With the continuing expansion of businesses everywhere, We sought regulations that would better manage the market as a whole.
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By the beginning of 1853, a legal framework for these regulations had been developed, and specific regulations for the financial markets promulgated.
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At this point, the experiences of the Mexican-American war were leading to applications of the new technologies of recent years.
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They were also demonstrating the need for an improved rifle for the legions. Preferably one that did not need to be loaded from the muzzle.
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Sadly, the rifles were not yet ready for the disastrous battle of Kursk. Nearly a year later, they were finally deployed.

And with that, We are uncertain where to direct the researchers and inventors of the Empire. Perhaps the Senate has some recommendations?
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On the societal side, the Empire faced a dangerous escaped convict, militant clergymen, blighted crops, nationalist martyrs, investigative reporters, ‘disloyal regiments’, money laundering banks, and requests for prison reform.
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Those may sound as if we had great difficulties, but consider instead Persia’s violent overthrow of the Persian Patriarch, who replaced by a monk from an ascetic monastery.
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Finally, in more personal news, We bore Our seventh and eighth children. Surely God is bringing restoration to the Doukas family.


I propose we eliminate these investigative reporters, disloyal regiments, and money laundering banks.

Congratulations, Basilissa, for another pair of lovely children. The Lord shies his favor upon you.

-Senator Moustakas

This issue regarding a disloyal regiment is particularly disturbing after the incident we experienced here in Constantinople. Perhaps an investigation should be conducted of the armed forces to determine where the loyalty of each regiments lies. Speaking of that, has any evidence been found that may reveal who was the spy within Constantinople or even within the Senate? I would hate to think that whoever is guilty of such a crime is still loose and able to potentially harm others or even Your Majesty.

My most sincere blessings upon your newborn children. May they live long and prosperous lives.

– Duke Michelangelo “the Artist” Favero

Nikephoros is escorted into the Senate, propped up by two members of the Athenian Lancers.

Ah, it’s so nice to see you all again. Your Imperial Highness, I hope you are doing well after the events of 5/9 and giving birth. I have quite a few things that I would like to discuss.

He motions to Alexios, who leaves the room.

While we’re waiting for my son to return, I would like to talk about the issue with the Imperial prison system. First and foremost, we need reform. I believe that some of the people we have incarcerated can be rehabilitated, and we need to make sure those people don’t end up like those sentenced to execution.

Second, the blight. How did we allow this to happen? The peasants were starving to death by the thousands! I did my best to remedy the problem in Greece, but the government needs to really care for the common people! Think about it…less people, less taxes, less subjects! It’s that simple!

Alexios returns, leading a man in chains behind him.

Ah, right on schedule. Senators, this man you see before you was Senator Antonios Tsoukalos, a man who sat among us the session before the dreadful attack. He was Senator Antonios Tsoukalos, because now he is not. He is a member of the Cult of the Black Hand, one who partook in their gruesome displays of cannibalism and satanic rituals! He forsook his god, his all-caring god, in favor of this demonic bloodthirsty heathen spirit! Now, Dmitri “The Sword of Baba Yaga,” this traitor, has been shamelessly feeding the Cult information on all of us–our families, ages, properties, backgrounds, cultures, and even political standing! This man is the reason the Cult managed to pentrated deep into the capital! However, we have him in our clutches, and although there are possibly still more traitors lurking in our midst, we can make an example of this man. How shall we deal with him?

But first, I have other news for you.
The Cult is at it again.
Yes, you may argue “Where’s your evidence,” but I feel the evidence just provided is enough. How else did criminals, convicted killers, escape our maximum security prison? In Lyon, New Guinea, and Tlemcen, there have been reports of people trying to incite the local populations against our rule. It has to be the Cult, sowing discontent among the people, or maybe I’m getting old and paranoid. How else could preachers and farmer banks be so influential? The incident in New Guinea will only be the first of such cases, unless we root out the disloyal elements within the military. This being said, I recommend to Your Imperial Highness that we spend more money on improving the administration and the education system, in order to make our bureaucracy more efficient and our people more assimilated in Roman society.

Also, we should direct the University to begin researching the concept of Nationalism and Imperialism, because I feel we are going to need it in the near future.

That’s all I have to say. Does anyone have any questions as to what I said? I will be more than happy to clarify on my points.

~Doux Nikephoros of Thema Graecia

A traitor revealed at last! Senator Antonios Tsoukalos must be punished, but first we must extract all information we can from him about this cult of his. If he is unwilling to give us such information, he should be executed. Someone must be punished for all the bloodshed that cult caused.

What you suggest, Doux Doukas, is most disturbing. If indeed this cult is behind all those events, it suggests that they not only have a large following, but also have agents in even the farthest corners of the Empire. I fear for the Empire in the coming days.

– Duke Michelangelo “the Artist” Favero

Your Most Imperial Magnifinence, blessing on your House and your most Revered Personage! You are truly an inspiration to the thousands of loyal citizens and millions of subjects.

Senator Moustakas once again rears his head as one of the triumvirate of corrupt and greedy senators imposing their will over the Kyriarchía and Foiderátoi parties, of course he wants the suppression of newspapers, when those same newspapers expose the degenerate world in which he and his ilk bring this house to its kneew. Surely despite their protests we see now how the leading parties use women, wine and gold to bribe those around them to follow in their corrupt footsteps. Not since Marcus Licinius Crassus has the Empire or the Republic of its birth been so abused by the wealth and power accumulated by so few!

I believe we must begin to bring about regulations to the banking sector, this sector is dominated by this unholy Triumvirate, Duke Favero, Seantors Moustakas and Damaskinos! We must research and allow Business Banks that will be regulated and separate entities so that the ordinary merchants can develop their businesses without the usurious rates charged by this cabal of evil!

Now we have another Foiderátoi party member arresting Senators without trial, yet asking for mercy for others! Doux Nikephoros claims to have the interests of the Empire at heart, the Empire, really? Again fools and crooks trying to sway your Imperial Majesty. The sooner you appoint the XKM to power the sooner we can begin to dismantle this system of cronyism and kickbacks that have lead to these blights, criminals and scandals.

I am afraid I must put forward a vote of no confidence our current leaders.

Senator Στήβεν Γκρέυ

I do not appreciate being referred to as a member of a “cabal of evil”, Senator Στήβεν Γκρέυ. My home of Venice has always been a city of wealth and merchants. Just because my family has resorted to successful business practices for generations does not mean that I some satanic figure bent on the destitution of the common merchant.

And what is this vote nonsense? The Empress’s word is law. We, as senators, are merely here to guide Her Highness. If she deems the words of a certain party more important than the rest, then so be it.

– Duke Michelangelo “the Artist” Favero

Take that back now!
I do have evidence that Senator Tsoukalos here belongs to the Cult. When the Scholai Palatinae “inspected” his house on the grounds of suspicious activity in the weeks and days leading up to the attack (including swearing in Russian, becoming incredibly secretive, and checking out books on the Ruthenian pagan pantheon and associated rituals from the University), they found numerous satanic imagery, incantations written in blood in Old Ruthenian, and, most importantly, an altar much like the ones found in Blachernae and Hagia Sofia, which was stained with fresh blood. Further investigations revealed a dismembered body with the heart removed buried under the floorboards (the heart was found partially eaten next to the altar). In addition to all of this class condemning evidence, the man himself confessed to aiding the Cult and directly communicating with the Cult leader! Now, I agree we must put him on trial, as is the civilized way, but is this evidence not enough to condemn him to death? Senator Στήβεν Γκρέυ, I have the relevant files with me right now. Read them and reconsider your words.
Your Imperial Highness, I truly do serve the Empire above all else, despite what others say. Do you not remember how during the attacks, I saved your life and fought the cult’s leader? If I was but a simple crook, would I care for your life? Would I even consider saving you?

The Cult is dividing us, driving is apart, exploiting out fears, rivalries, weaknesses. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

~Doux Nikephoros


To respond to the previous messages to Blachernae, before the recent madness:

Senator Favero, as far as We can determine, there is no great love between Germany and Russia. We believe that a reporter for the newspapers mistook a minor diplomatic mission as meaning more than it did.

Senator Damaskinos, Doukas and Γκρέυ , We will continue to look to the east, both China and India, in the future. Not war, necessarily, but perhaps a continuing extension of so-called ‘soft power’? As you suggest. Though if need be, war is also a tool to use. But We would prefer stripping Iraq, Hedjaz, and Persia of their colonies for now.

And to respond to the comments during the address:

Several Senators are concerned at the level of support We give our allies in the Americas and Germany, and even suggest trying to turn on them. We are hopeful that they will be able to support themselves soon enough, and remain convinced they will not so easily turn on the Empire once they are self-sufficient. We will continue to send diplomatic missions to ensure this is so.

As well, the loss at Kursk was after XXIV. Legio had already defeated a much larger army mere days before, and was seeking to return to Imperial lands to recover and reorganize. They were ambushed on this journey. You can note on the after-action report from the battle that they were at one quarter strength, purely by manpower numbers alone. Perhaps the legions could learn from the navy and develop per-prepared plans so that they are ready for these situations in the future.

We would also point out that any investigative reporters are either working for the Imperial Newspaper or already illegal, the bank was shut down, the so-called ‘disloyal regiment’ was merely responding to poor officers, that the prison system is being reformed even now, and that personal charity met the needs of those hurt by the famine.

We will direct investment in both better banking laws, if only to demonstrate a lack of corruption, and an understanding of nationalist and imperialist thought.

Senator Doukas—We will note in passing that being a Senator is a higher honor than being a Doux, thus the honorific Senator instead of Doux—excellent work on the investigation. The Scholai Palatinae will interrogate Senator Tsoukalos and continue the investigation in Constantinople. If you would direct the investigation into the cult elsewhere in the Empire, We would be quite thankful.

Finally, We thank you all for your congratulations on Our children. A healthy Imperial family leads to a healthy Empire.

Are there any further questions or comments before We close the session?


Your Imperial Highness, thank you for your gracious opinion on the investigation.  The Cult may be as secretive as the Hashashin of old were, but ultimately the Empire will defeat them.

Moving on, I do believe that we should send an ambassador to the Celestial Empire, or Serica as it is referred to in the ancient texts.  They possess vast amounts of resources that we need, and they are interested in some of our technology.  Perhaps we could sign a trade agreement with them?  Didn’t one of their fleets show up on the Arabian coast three hundred years ago?  An alliance with the Middle Kingdom would allow the Empire to better project its military and economic power into Asia and the Pacific, where we all know that the Ruthenians have some colonies we would like…
I am glad to hear about the resolutions regarding the banks, reporters, soldiers, famine, etc.  After all, we are civilized people, right?
On personal matters, would it be impolite to ask the gender of the newborn children and perhaps suggest some names?

~Senator Doukas of Athens

I believe new senatorships should be created and handed to loyal men from prestigious families outside of our Greek-speaking territories. This would tie more people into the life of the Empire and create a loyal citizenry committed to the Basilissa.

-Senator Moustakas

*The glorious Imperial capital, City of Men’s Desire, the centre of the world. At its heart, though slightly to the North East, the τὸ ἐν Βλαχέρναις Παλάτιον renovated and opulent stands a monument of the glory, wealth and power of the Empire. Zoom in to see the stunning artworks and frescos adorning the walls, up a bit past the gilded towers, to a small ornate garden, seemingly empty…no not quite. Pacing around the edge muttering to himself, is a man dressed plaining but with clear expense put into his dress.  His hair was clearly styled, but as he paces he grabs and pulls at it forming crazy shapes.*

Damn their oily hides, those snakes! The Kyriarchía and Foiderátoi no nothing but how to fill their own pockets. Satan’s elongated poker, the damn Patrikioi at least have a vision for the Empire! Those inbred fools look down on me and the rest of us as usurping provincials, only enough true Imperial blood allows you to join their little game. Ha! I know their secrets, I have found out their weaknesses, but the Empress continues to have them by her side, letting their poison seep into her mind, maybe her very soul.

Oh but not into my soul, oh I know they long to cut me down, yes. Arrest and detain, slay the voice of reason and logic, a true senator in the vein of Cicero. I should be leading the Senate, maybe even be the husband of the Empress, hhehehe. Not that I wouldn’t be worthy, but these fools try to spoil things. Nasty Senators! Take away all the things from me, nasty filthy senators! Γκόλουμ Γκόλουμ Γκόλουμ. Must make them understands that the world should be in twain the Tribes in the New World, the Empire to rule the Old. Then the prophecy will be try, Γκόλουμ, thenwill know, yes πολύτιμό μου.

*The Senator continues this rambling diatribe, sometimes pacing other times rocking all the while cradling something in his hands. Sometimes it appears he is speaking to whatever he holds, others it seems to be someone only he can see. Whilst this continues a figure in stylish yet armoured apparel moves from the shadows, his face covered only dark piercing eyes are visible. He approaches the Senator his steps seeming not to make a sound hand on a dagger by his side, has the end come for Στήβεν? Rounding on the back of the Senator the man seems to hesitate, yet then decides to speak and his hand leaves the dagger*

Senator? I have been sent to assist you, our goals have aligned and our time approaches, would you care to take a walk?

*  We spiral back into the sky as the man and Senator begin to talk, the Senator appears to relax and regain his composure as the man speaks. What new intrigue is brewing? Who is this man? What does all the Greek mean? Join us again same Imperial Time, same Imperial Channel*


Senator Doukas, We will certainly send an ambassador to the Ming. Though We fear their legendary insularness will prevent any trade treaties

As for Our children, they are named Veronica, Alvértos, Alíki, Alfrédos, Elena, Louiza, Artoúros, and Léon.

Senator Moustakas, We will certainly raise any worthy men of the Empire to Senatorial rank. But it is for the political parties to bring them to Our attention.

Thank you Senators. This State of the Empire address is now closed.